By: Yousef Alvi and Jonathan Wooley
Taken as a complete package, the FRS is one of the best cars I’ve ever driven.
It’s the kind of car where – either you ‘get it’, or you don’t. But to understand the attraction to the FRS – you have to understand the concepts behind it. This is a driver’s car. This is the purest tuner car on the market. No gimmicks. No fake sports cars. The 86 lives!
And if you’re the kind of guy who can only justify a car’s worth by its horsepower numbers, this is NOT the car for you. If you have to be the fastest guy on the street, this is NOT the car for you. However… if you’re out to antagonize the fastest guy on the street & fill up his mirrors – now we’re talkin’.
The gearing on this car is primo! 6 speeds; close ratios; and more thrilling than sticking your hand up a stranger’s skirt. It’s an absolute perfect match for the motor & the powerband. The car has variable valve timing, meaning it really gets in the power zone at about 4500rpm. Even with a stock airbox, and stock exhaust, you can hear it flip. The motor redlines at 7500rpm, but the power starts to fall off at around 6500rpm. That sounds like a bummer, but it’s not. Because the transmission is such – that when you shift at 6500rpm, you fall right back to 4500rpm in the next gear… right back in the sweet spot. Having explained that – I feel like a lot of the internet racers who criticize the FRS as ‘underpowered’… just in fact have 1) not driven it… or 2) have not figured out how to drive it right. This car moves when you keep it in the revs – and that’s the appeal of the whole FRS experience.
At the hand, shifting is precise. The shifter is well placed. It hits gears solidly & confidently. There is no excess play, and it feels silky smooth. To me – the transmission is the key to the heart & soul of the FRS. It just begs to be ripped all the time, and it takes a lot of self-restraint not to do it… especially with the torsen limited-slip (press traction-control button for 5 seconds to completely turn traction-control off).
The FRS’s rip-ability combined with it’s agility, is what will put this car on the right side of automotive history. The electronic power-steering is remarkably responsive. I love my air-cooled 911, and I love my B16-swapped CRX… but going back to those cars from the FRS left me bummed in the steering department. Just like the FRS’s transmission, I can’t image how the steering could be any better. Turn-in is amazing. Maneuvering is effortless. Look where you want to go, and the car will get you there. At 2700lbs, the FRS is very light by today’s standards… but not really that light by yesterday’s standards if you know what I mean. Having said that, I’m convinced that the 2700lbs is a coverup/conspiracy… because I can’t feel it anywhere.
The chassis is well thought out from a performance/tuner perspective. It’s hard to see depth in the following photo, but the 2-liter flat boxer carries a lower center of gravity than a traditional engine – contributing to it’s agility. I read somewhere that the FRS has a lower center of gravity than the Cayman, the GTR, and comes in juuuust a hair higher than the GT3. The engine bay is oversized, which will prove it’s worth & open more options as tuners look for turbos, superchargers, and/or motor swaps.
Sound deadening is minimal. The interior is simplistic – void of any bell & whistles, aside from a sport steering wheel, red stitching, and a great pair of seats. Don’t look for any necessary luxuries in the interior.
I really wished that the car was a hatch, because it would yield more usable cargo space. But when I explored the trunk area, I found that the chassis is reinforced at the c-pillars. So the hatch was perhaps forgone in the name of structural rigidity – which I can get down with.
The FRS is an uncompromising vehicle. It’s a driver’s car – pure & true. Not in the way that an M3 is a driver’s car… but in the way that a Type R is a driver’s car. Most cars these days aim to give you refuge from the commute. This car gives you a sword & throws you in the fight.
At $25,000 – some people have a hard time justifying the price in their minds. It may seem more like a $21,000 car. And at $25,000, there are other cars in the price range (like the GTI & ST) that check off more boxes. But you have to understand what the FRS is. It was designed from inception to be a sports car, & and nothing else. See – the GTI and the Focus ST are hopped-up versions of mass-produced, economical cars. Therefore, a lot of parts are shared across the board, and produced in much higher quantities – driving down the cost. Think of all the different Volkswagen/Audi models that use that 2.0T… or how many Focus headlights/fenders exist in the world. I’m not hating – that’s smart way to build a great car (I’m a MK6 GTI owner). But none of those cost-saving methods apply for the FRS, because there’s nothing else like it. And that’s the point… there’s ‘nothing else like it’.
If it helps – don’t think of this as a $25,000 car. Think of it as a $2000-$3000 dollar car (downpayment)… with manageable payments on an extremely well-engineered NEW car that you’re going to love for a long, long time.